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Titine Trovato en robe et chapeau
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About the item

Henri Matisse, Titine Trovato en robe et chapeau\nSigned H. Matisse and dated 34 (lower left)\nOil on canvas\n28 by 23 in.\n71.1 by 58.4 cm\nPainted in 1934.
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NY, US
US

notes

Matisse's refined portrait depicts a stylish young woman called Titine Trovato.  Little is known about the sitter, although her Italian surname provides some clue to her origin.  Perhaps she is the "pretty Sicilian model," whom Hilary Spurling identified as working with Matisse at the beginning of 1935.  According to Spurling, that unnamed model "turned out to be too absorbed in her own affairs to suit Matisse's schedule," which would account for Titine's disappearance in Matisse's oeuvre after he painted this picture.  Given her magnificent poise and chiseled features, it is readily apparent why Matisse, ever concerned with the sensual appeal and monumental presence of his models, was so captivated by this dark-eyed beauty.

As is the case for many of the paintings that Matisse completed in the 1930s, Titine Trovato en robe et chapeau is a remarkably sculptural composition.  Matisse positions his model against a lavender grid, as if to emphasize the architectural proportionality of her body.  The grid was an important stylistic device in his most important composition of 1935, Grand nu, rose, in which he contrasted the curavature of his reclining model with the rigid angularity of the background.  In the present work, which dates from one year earlier, Matisse is similarily fascinated with the harmonizing shapes and contours of his model's figure.  He focuses on the rounded arch of her shoulders, exaggerated by the cut of her dress and stole, and highlights the smooth contours of her face and neck with visible, hatching strokes of his brush.  One might compare the clarity of form and the monumental stature of the model here to Michelangelo's frescoed depiction of Delphic Sibyl in the Sistine Chapel.  Like that great Renaissance sculptor and painter, Matisse takes a similarly sculptural approach in rendering the solidity and structure of his model's body.

Early in his career, Matisse had once told his sculpture students in Paris "a sculpture must invite us to handle it as an object."  This same tactile appeal applies to the present composition, in which the curves and angles of the model's figure invite a visually 'tactile' investigation of this two-dimensional image.  We can see this best in Matisse's investigation of the model's head.  The angularity of the face – the arch of the brow, pucker of the lips, high cheek bones, and sharpness of the nose -  bear a close resemblance to Matisse's sculptural portrait of Henriette from 1929.  In both his painting and his sculpture, Matisse pays particular attention to the individual shapes that comprise the unified form, molding them into place with either chisel or paint brush.

Another important influence on Matisse's compositions were those of his arch-rival, Pablo Picasso.  The relationship between the artists was notoriously competitive, and the aesthetic dialogue they maintained throughout the 1930s can been seen quite clearly when comparing their contemporaneous works of art.  When Matisse painted this picture, Picasso was head-long into a romance with Marie-Thérèse Walter, whose highly sculptural facial features were instantly recognizable in Picasso's pictures of this time.  Picasso also color-typed his new model, using shades of yellow, pink, green and lavender in the great majority of his compositions of her.   It is interesting to consider how Matisse's portrait of Titine makes use of that same color palette, and also stresses the angularity of the figure's face in a manner that is similar to Picasso's portraits of Marie-Thérèse.  But unlike his rival, Matisse presents us with a more naturalistic representation of his model's robust beauty and stresses her voluptuous curves with a more architectural and decidedly Modernist approach.

Around the time he painted this canvas, Matisse began his important two-decade-long collaboration with Lydia Delectorskaya.  In 1934, when Matisse painted the present work, Lydia was still employed mainly as the family's governess.  It was later in 1935 that Lydia began to take on more responsibilities as the artist's assistant, eventually modeling for some of his most daring compositions.  In the years preceding Lydia's ascendance to primary model, Matisse maintained his long-standing preference for dark-eyed brunettes, which further explains the appeal of the model in the present picture.  But it is interesting to note that this model's strong profile and heart-shaped face bear a strong resemblance to the features of the blonde, blue-eyed Lydia, whose presence Matisse was increasingly noticing around his studio.

Titine Trovato en robe et chapeau was one of the first portraits that Matisse painted after several years of working on Dr. Albert C. Barnes' commission of La Danse.  Matisse had been fearful that his painting would regress after such a long hiatus from individual compositions, but the present work is evidence to the contrary.  The artist's palette, comprised of bold shades of green and contrasting highlights of creamy yellow and brilliant ruby-red, bespeaks the artist's unfaltering confidence as the supreme colorist of the twentieth century.

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Henri Matisse

exhibited

Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art & Baltimore Museum of Art, Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, 2007-08, no. 96, illustrated in color in the catalogue

dimensions

28 by 23 in. 71.1 by 58.4 cm

provenance

Estate of the artist

Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 1997)





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